The M16 Assault Rifle
What became known as the forever symbol of the Vietnam conflict, the American made M16 assault rifle was originally designed by Eugene Stoner, it was originally billed as the AR-15 and was manufactured by Armalite. However, all rights to the design of the M16 were sold to the Colt rifle company in 1959. Eventually, Mr. Stoner did join the Colt Company.
The weapon was designed to meet the demands of the United States Army’s need for a new lighter gun; that would prove useful in the forthcoming Vietnam War, which would allow for an assault rifle that could chamber for newer intermediate type cartridges.
The M16 used aluminum instead of steel, and fiberglass instead of wood, and could fire up to 950 rounds per minute. The M16 also boasts a unique ergonomic, user-friendly design for ease of use and handling. Incorporated a 20 round magazine and was a select fire 5.56x45mm rifle. The original design has undergone many different modifications overtime up to the M16A4, the fourth generation weapon in the family. This particular model was widely used by the United States military until 2015 when they were finally phased out for the front line infantry models in favor of the lighter and more compact M4, even with that the M16 is still standard issue for the support units and those units classified as non-infantry. The M16 is still manufactured in the United States, China, and Canada.
In 1964, the M16 was introduced to the military, and in 1965 was issued for the combative purposes of jungle warfare. The M16 replaced the M14 rifle completely in 1969 and then became the standard issue rifle for the American military forces. However, the original M16 didn’t come without its own set of problems, it initially did not fare well at all in the Vietnam jungle and thus prompted a congressional investigation where the following were found to be serious issues:
• The gun manufacturer stated that it was self-cleaning which is not a possibility now with any rifle much less then.
• It was given to troops without so much as a cleaning kit or even instructions on how to properly and efficiently clean it.
• It was tested and approved for use with a different powder stick than what was most widely used because of manufacturing cost and speed which caused the weapons to jam, along with several other problems unless the rifle was cleaned properly, and cleaned well.
• It lacked a forward assist which made the firearm absolutely useless when it jammed which it often did, causing the loss of many military lives.
• It also lacked a chrome chamber which allowed for corrosion, which brought on a whole myriad of problems if and of itself which called for drastic measures to correct.
However, when these problems were corrected, the issues drastically decreased and the popularity of the M16A1 firearm skyrocketed with American Vietnam war soldiers. The new A1 model even had a 30 round magazine clip.
In 1983 the United States Marine Corps began using the 2nd generation A2 model which came with improvements such as new adjustable rear sight, heavy barrel, and semi-auto and three round only burst firing options. The Army followed suit in 1986, and in 1998 the military adopted the 4th generation A4 model.
Many other militaries in the world have also acquired the m16 for their uses, bringing the worldwide production total to about eight million. The only other weapon this widely utilized by the world’s various militaries is the Russian made Ak-47, which did give the M16 some very stiff competition over time.
The M16 pretty much replaced the M1 Grand and M1918 Browning automatic rifles, as well as the Thompson submachine gun after World War II. This came after weapons designers suggested and opted for a smaller caliber, high-velocity cartridge. This came after the military’s discovery that the original M14 could not outdo the AK-47 because of poor control and the inability of the soldiers to carry enough ammunition to survive and complete their missions. After many trials and failures what we now know as the M16 was developed and adopted by the United States military. And has been used for several years and is still applied in some capacity within ours and other militaries worldwide.
The M16 is considered to be “very accurate” by soldiers and those that train our troops. This is due to the light recoil, flat trajectory, and high velocity. This allows for headshots even at up to 300 meters. The newer models with, the more modern M855 ammunition increase those shots up to 600 meters. The safety and fire mode selector is on the left-hand side of the weapon, in the order of safety, semi-automatic, and automatic. This makes for a quick and easy shift from safety to a fire mode. The ejection port is on the right side of the weapon, and range adjustments are made by rotating a small knob on the back of the weapon. Even with all of these features, many other weapons can be attached to the M16, such as grenade launchers, lasers, and a bayonet can also be attached to the weapon for close quarter combat.
All of the problems that the M16 has had and it is still one of the most widely used weapons worldwide even ranking at the top with the Russian Ak-47. Even though many modifications were necessary, it has had the stamina and sustainability of one of the most effective firearms that have ever been used by our military.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.